The IBMT has only recently come across this interesting story of a Spanish Republican fighter, Miguel Ramírez Fajardo, who made his home in Britain and who died aged 101 in January this year. The following is the eulogy read at Miguel’s funeral…
Miguel Ramírez Fajardo was born in Grazalema in Spain on 5 September 1915, one of seven children. Not much is known about Miguel’s early life except to say it was very hard and from around the age of nine he spent most of his time in the mountains tending goats. This early outdoor life led to a love of agriculture and gardening. Miguel had an amazing memory – he could recall every nook and cranny in Grazelema some 70 years later!
The civil war in Spain resulted in Miguel leaving his beloved country as a valiant Republican soldier. He travelled across Spain and crossed the French border, and was held in an internment camp near Perpignan until he had no choice but to join the French Foreign Legion, the only alternative being sent back to Spain and almost certain death by Franco's fascist regime.
He served in the French Foreign legion in Africa and then on to Norway, fighting in the battle of Narvik, where he was seriously injured, suffering five gunshot wounds. He was then transferred to Scotland to recover.
Britain had declared war on Germany and Miguel decided to help defend our democracy against another fascist dictator. He joined the British Army and enlisted with other Republican soldiers in the Spanish Co. No. 1 Pioneer corps. He was under canvas at White City for a considerable time before training in Bournemouth; he also trained in Scotland as a paratrooper with the idea of being dropped behind enemy lines to defend Gibraltar. By the age of 27 he had fought many battles and also took part in the Normandy landings. There can't be many soldiers who have fought against fascism and tyranny under three different flags.
During the latter stages of the war he finally got lucky. He met and married Ascención Belón Bilbao. They had both lost fathers in the Spanish Civil War. ‘Ascen’ had come to England as a 12-year-old child on the Habana along with 4,000 other children. They married in September 1943. Miguel was born in 1944 and José Luis in 1946.
Miguel with his medals.
After the war they started family life in Moorhouse Road. Notting Hill, moving on to Acton and finally buying a lovely house in Baldwyn Gardens – enjoying their life, working hard and raising their sons along with Ascen’s mother who joined them in 1947 from Spain. Miguel had an allotment where he grew a huge variety of fruit and veg.
Miguel worked as a forklift truck driver and later as a delivery man. They entertained their friends and family and often visited the Spanish Club in Camden where they had many happy times and subsequently went on many holidays organised by the club and subsidised by the Spanish government.
Miguel was unable to return to Spain until after Franco had died for fear of reprisals. He always wanted to reconnect with his family and after extensive searches and much help by Ascen’s family in Spain they were finally traced to Jérez de la Fontera.
A reunion was planned, resulting in over a 100 members of his family meeting Miguel and Ascen at Jerez railway station. Several visits followed and Miguel was finally able to meet both his sisters and one brother. All the family have spent many happy times with Miguel’s nieces and nephews and their families. Indeed Miguel’s great nephew lived firstly with Joe and Sandra and then stayed with Miguel whilst working locally.
They retired to Byfleet, where they created a lovely home and a beautiful garden with a huge vegetable garden. Many happy times were spent with family and friends.
In 2010 Miguel was invited back to Grazelema to be honoured by the Provincial Council of Cádiz for his services to Spain. His sons accompanied him; sadly Ascen was too frail to travel.
Whilst there, he took part in a TV/radio and press interview where his recall was amazing. He talked for over two hours about his life and his battles.
Miguel was a much decorated veteran, awarded three medals from France and a Norwegian medal granted by the king of Norway.
He was also finally decorated as a knight of the order of loyalty to the Spanish Republic in exile. He was invited along with Ascen to the Spanish embassy in London for a meeting with the Spanish Ambassador in 2006.
As long as he was able, he marched proudly with his regiment to the Cenotaph annually on Remembrance Day. Miguel was fiercely proud of his medals and Zac replaced all the ribbons and had them mounted in a frame for him. He was also very proud of his centenary birthday card from the Queen.
In 2011 Ascen died leaving him alone after 68 years of marriage. He lived independently successfully but was very lonely, cooking (some weird concoctions), cleaning and maintaining his garden.
In July last year his health started to fail, Having looked after himself from the age of nine his body finally started to let him down, and he suffered a number of falls. Finally in September he was admitted to hospital and subsequently moved to a care home. He didn't like it (that's putting it mildly) and finally fought his last battle on 23 January.
Fortunately Sam did see him before his demise, having relocated back to the UK from Australia with his family. In a previous telephone call with his grandad, Miguel told him to come home and not spend his life away from the country of his birth like he had.
Miguel leaves behind his two sons ‘Migs’ and Joe, six grandchildren: Zoe, James, Yolanda, Daniel, Paul and Sam; seven great granchildren: Jack, Maia, Jake, Amelia, Thomas, William and Isabella, with another, Ramira, due to Yolly and Simon in April.
Miguel always wanted to return to Spain. He last visited in 2014 aged 99! His sons will honour that request and take him back to Grazelama to finally rest in peace in his beloved Spain.
Posted on 3 July 2017.